Chef Reveals The Most Common Mistakes You're Making While Cleaning Your Grill

Grilling encompasses a wide range of possibilities. You might be partial to a bullet smoker and an all-day brisket, or perhaps you'd rather barbecue filet mignon on a top-end propane grill. Maybe you prefer to grill up some hot dogs and hamburgers on a basic charcoal kettle. No matter what, or how, you're cooking, though, your meal won't be a success if you neglect one basic step common to all types of grill: You've got to clean them before you use them!

If you're remembering to clean your grill at all, good for you, you're ahead of the game. Still, as with all things, there's a right way and a wrong way to go about it. Leif Evans, a Culinary Arts chef instructor at the Institute of Culinary Education, may be based out of the school's New York campus, but he still knows his way around a backyard barbecue. He shared with us his expertise on how you should and should not be cleaning your grill.

You should avoid these grill-cleaning errors

If you don't give the grill grates a thorough brushing before you use them, Evans warns that "old bits of food or soot stuck on the grill ... can result in off flavors and food sticking to the grill." He advises using a grill brush to scrub the grill bars, and says to "really dig in."

After you've scrubbed the grill grates as clean as you can, the next step is to season the grill, but Evans cautions against using either too much or too little oil. Use too little, and the food may stick and tear when you try to take it off the grill. That's something Evans says "will ruin the nice grill marks and char grilled flavor." If you use too much oil, though, this can cause flare-ups. If you overheat the grill prior to seasoning it, this may also cause the oil to flare up. The excess oil will burn off, but it will leave soot behind. Evans says that this "can result in food sticking and/or dirty food." In this case, basically, you've just dirtied the grill again after cleaning it, which is a waste of time and effort, not to mention good food.

The proper way to clean a grill

Okay, so we've covered what not to do when cleaning a grill, but how, then, should we be doing it? Evans kindly broke it down for us into a few simple steps. First, brush the grill while it's still cold. Once you've gotten as much of the gunk off those grates as you can, you can then proceed to preheat the grill. Char-Broil suggests that you do so for 15 minutes if you'll be grilling, but just 10 minutes if you'll be cooking low and slow.

After the grill is preheated, take your brush and scrub those grates yet again. Now take a damp rag and carefully wipe those hot grates to remove any soot. Make sure it's just the rag that contacts the grates and not your fingers, though, as they are really hot! As a final step, take another clean rag and use it to apply just a light, thin layer of oil to the grates to season them. Once you've finished that step, your grill will be clean and hot and you'll be ready to get cooking.